Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout is twenty-first mainline game in the Atelier series, and the first in a new continuity. The game was released on September 26 2019 in Japan for the the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch. A later localized version of the game launched on the same platforms as well as on Steam arrived on October 29 in North America, then Europe on November 1.
Reisalin "Ryza" Stout lives a mundane life on a farm in Rasenboden, her small, boring village on the island of Kurken. Dreaming of excitement, she and her friends head on an adventure during which they meet Empel, an alchemist. Seeing the power of alchemy firsthand, Ryza becomes determined to become an alchemist herself. This marks the start of an adventure that will lead her to save her hometown...
The game introduces new alchemy mechanics: Linkage Synthesis involves adding items to cells, which unlocks linked cells similarly to a Tech Tree to allow the addition of extra items and improved effects, and can even lead to completely new recipes. Rebuild allows you to re-do an item's synthesis in order to upgrade it, at the cost of raising its Dexterity requirement, limiting who can use it. With Gathering Synthesis, you can create gathering points, and share them with other players via passwords. Ryza's secret hideout can also be customized and decorated to your liking.
The battle system is now more action-based, with a semi-real-time Combatant Cooldown System which keeps going as you choose your next move. This time, you control only one character at a time, while your allies act automatically, though you can switch between combatants at any time. MP is gone, now replaced with Actions Points, which are gained by attacking and used to perform special moves and Quick Actions (which ignore the character's cooldown), or to raise the Tactics Level, increasing your power and maximum AP. As for items, they no longer have individual use counts, instead drawing from a shared pool of Core Charges, which can be refilled by sacrificing one item for the duration of the expedition. Fulfilling Action Orders during combat allows characters to perform special follow-up attacks when certain conditions are fulfilled.
A sequel, Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy, was released on December 3, 2020 in Japan on the same platforms (plus the PlayStation 5), followed by a release late January 2021 for the global version and the Windows version. Notably, it stars Ryza as the main protagonist again, a first for the franchise, and is set three years after the first game.
Atelier Ryza contains examples of the following tropes:
- Arbitrary Headcount Limit: Out of six eventual party members, you can only use three. Furthermore, the lineup must include one "front-line" fighters and one "rear-line". These roles are set to each character, limiting the possible party lineups. Initially the party had to have two front-liners, but this was patched out quickly.
- An Interior Designer Is You: Parts of the titular secret hideout, inside of which your atelier is located, can be customized, including the outer and inner walls, floor, rug, sofa, bed, table, and roof.
- Abusive Precursors: The Klint Kingdom government decided to deliberately introduce the Philucsa into Oren lands, betraying to Oren to allow every living thing in their lands to be Eaten Alive with the intention of harvesting the monsters for fuel. It worked too well, since when the hive was done eating the Oren they moved on to kill and eat the entire Klint Kingdom's unaware innocent citizens. It's telling that the normally kind-hearted main characters, in an Atelier game no less, show absolutely no sympathy towards the regretful Apocalyptic Log of one of those responsible for this plan shortly before he was Eaten Alive trying to divert the horde from the escaping citizens using the Holy Tower as a beacon (which still needed up as mass innocent casualties, since the towers' defenders were mostly ignorant Klint soldiers that had nothing to do with what happened with the gates. And while the kids are thankful for the construction of the artificial island the Klint Kingdom built saving their ancestors, they recognize it never should have been necessary to begin with and they would rather history had taken a different course.
- Amazon Chaser: An NPC who gets together with a girl Ryza can help during a long quest chain after watching her beat the crap out of people in martial arts tournaments on the mainland. Funnily enough, the girl in question started off the quest line looking for her prince charming but got distracted by the thrill of training and became a professional fighter, then found him after forgetting about what she originally set out to do.
- Animal Gender-Bender: One of the quests has you doing things for a goat, who Ryza consistently refers to as male and as "Mr. Goat", even though 'he' has very, very obvious udders on account of all goats sharing the same model.
- Anti-Frustration Features:
- Every boss has an area entirely to itself, which you can easily fast-travel back to if you die while facing them to restart the fight immediately; additionally, the cutscene leading up to the boss will be shortened to just one line from Ryza.
- The Rebuild mechanic can save you a lot of frustration if you want to give your equipment a minor upgrade: instead of having to make a whole new item, you can simply pick up the synthesis where you left off and add new components to further improve its effects.
- Later in the game, you gain the ability to make duplicates of your items, which makes it a lot less frustrating to make decent equipment for your whole team.
- Aristocrats Are Evil: From Ryza's point of view, Moritz is seen as a corrupt noble figure who uses his influence to control the drinking water of Kurken Island, a sentiment that is shared by some of the residents as well. In addition, Bos and Lumbar are the classic Upper Class Twits who taunt and bully Ryza's crew on a regular basis. In the case of the latter two, though, things are a lot more complicated since this all began with Ryza and her friends ganging up on Bos to begin with as kids.
- Taken to the extreme with the alchemist ruling class of the Klint Kingdom, whose greed led to TWO genocides, one intentionally and one by accident.
- Art Evolution: Compared to past games, Atelier Ryza features more fluid animations (such as side-stepping through a narrow gap) and vastly improved lighting and shadow effects (such as Lens Flare, and a windmill whose blades cast moving shadows onto the landscape and characters). It also includes only a handful of the usual CG scenes and drops all anime cutscenes entirely in favor of showing as much of the story in-engine as possible.
- Big Damn Heroes: Early in the game, Ryza and friends are in a Hopeless Boss Fight against a monster. Empel and Lila show up just in time to take it out with an alchemic bomb.
- Bittersweet Ending: The Philuscha's invasion have been stopped and Kurken Island's and Underworld's water supplies have been restored, but nearly all main characters after that leave the island to chase after their own dreams. Only Ryza stays behind to help with some unresolved issues, reminiscing about the time she spend adventuring with her friends and keeping alive a vague promise of one day following after them once she truly secures the island's future. This is somewhat mitigated by the sequel since the entire premise is about them all getting together again and having another adventure in the capital.
- Combatant Cooldown System: The battle system has combatants moving down the Visual Initiative Queue in real-time similarly to Final Fantasy's Active Time Battle, acting when they reach the end.
- Commonplace Rare: Lampshaded in the description of the Goat Hoof Stamp you receive as part of one questline (which is categorized as a rare item in-game):"A piece of paper with a goat hoof stamped right in the middle of it. Technically speaking, this is an extremely rare item."
- Cute Slime Mook: Punis make a return in this entry and are both adorable and act as the easy beginner area mooks.
- Darker and Edgier: While it starts off as a usual lighthearted romp like the other Atelier games, there are hints early on about the game's finale including an abusive father, severe bullying, and a country committing the engineered destruction of a world and genocide of nearly an entire race of people that they pretended to befriend by deliberately introducing a invasive species of monsters with the intent to harvest said monsters organs once they had killed and eaten everything, only to have nearly all their own kingdom's people Eaten Alive as well without the public even knowing what happened amongst other things.
- Decapitated Army: The Philuscha are mindless beasts, but the Ravaging Queen is able to control and organize them into a dangerous force capable of devouring entire worlds. Once the Queen is defeated, the Philuscha revert to their feral state, making them much less dangerous.
- Degraded Boss: When you first encounter a Bluefin, it's a Hopeless Boss Fight which requires Empel to come to your rescue. A few hours later, you get to the Maple Delta, where Bluefins are common mooks that are easily dispatched thanks to your vastly improved equipment.
- Disk One Nuke: Properly crafted bombs are much easier to acquire in this game early on than usual and abuse due to the way crafting works, the availability of decent materials early, and having an infinite supply of any usable item without having to wait for duplication to unlock. This can trivialize every difficult encounter up until around the halfway point, where even more powerful attack items and weapons can replace early game explosives.
- Dude, Where's My Respect?: Played for drama; even after you've killed a dragon, most people in town still treat you like a group of troublemaking kids, which causes problems when you're trying to convince them to take the threat caused by the sea-monster seriously.
- Dug Too Deep: The Klint Kingdom colonized and exploited the Underworld, until they removed the barrier keeping the Philuscha out of Oren territory. Deconstructed after The Reveal that they unleashed the Philuscha on the Oren on purpose to harvest crystals out of their bodies, but underestimated the creatures' threat level.
- Easily Forgiven: Shockingly for an Atelier game, completely averted. The protagonists are even more disgusted to hear the remorse and apologies of an alchemist who, along with his companions, caused the needless deaths of millions from a note written shortly before he was violently killed by the consequences of those actions. Mostly because they learned at the same time that what happened to the Oren wasn't an accident and the level to which those responsible covered it up to the point where it created the taboo system that stagnated Kurken's society for hundreds of years. Stagnation that would nearly doom their entire island if a certain alchemist hadn't been born and broken said taboos.
- Played entirely straight with Lent's father, who seemingly patches up his relationship with his son overnight with barely any mention of how that happened.
- Forest of Perpetual Autumn: The trees in the Maple Delta have red leaves indicative of autumn, despite the game taking place during the summer. Interestingly, their excretions bleed into the water, making it sweet and turning the rivers a pink color.
- Gameplay and Story Integration: Characters have small achievement-style personal quests representing their goals that can grant them permanent upgrades. Most of these are simple achievements along the lines of "kill X monsters of type Y" or "use skill X, Y times"; they generally start with easier ones, with later ones unlocking as the story progresses and you finish earlier ones. Since Lent's overarching goal is to reach the tower in the far north, however, he starts with a personal quest to achieve this right from the beginning, even though it won't happen until fairly late in the game.
- Gender-Equal Ensemble: There are six party members: three females (Ryza, Klaudia, and Lila) and three males (Lent, Tao, and Empel).
- The Greatest Story Never Told: Almost all of the main characters' adventures, mostly due the to the fact that they would be treated like criminals if most of what they did got out due to the taboos, but also because the Underworld's existence being known is dangerous and Kurken's society isn't ready to accept the truth behind the island. After the ending the kids go their separate ways trying to figure out a solution to all these problems for the following generations.
- Hive Queen: The Ravaging Queen is the head of all Philuscha, giving them orders to devour worlds. If she is defeated, the army loses all of its organizational capabilities.
- In-Universe Game Clock: Like with previous Atelier games, Atelier Ryza has its own in-game clock, but this time it uses the "turn" method of time keeping by having the day-night cycle linked to progression through areas rather than the usual gradual passing of time. Each time you enter an area, one hour of the in-game clock will pass, so you can spend as much time as you want in the same area without advancing the clock until you decide to leave. Conversely, you can also speed up the time progression by moving back and forth between areas.
- Irony: Regarding the game's ending. At the start of the game, Ryza is desperate to get off of the island and explore, while her friends are far more cautious about breaking the village's taboos. At the end of the game, Ryza is the one to remain on the island, while her friends take off elsewhere.
- Lazy Backup: The game even warns you the minute you get a fourth party member that "If all team members get knocked out in battle, it counts as a loss even if other members are available," with "even if other members are available" presented in Rainbow Speak to drive home the point.
- Lens Flare: The game's ending is heavy on simulated lens flare as Ryza looks out at to the sky across the ocean, a rainbow arcing across it.
- Magic Cauldron: Found in alchemy workshops, often full of bright, colorful fluids. Alchemy synthesis is performed by placing items into one of these, although Empel notes that just about any mundane vessel could work in its place.
- Male Gaze: When Ryza gets down on her hands and knees to crawl through a low tunnel, the camera will end up positioned right behind her, giving you a perfectly-framed view of her derriere.
- One-Winged Angel: In the final battle, the Ravaging Queen has two forms. The first is a gigantic, praying mantis-like monster, which, when defeated, has a humanoid being emerge from its exoskeleton, wielding a double-ended polearm seemingly made from the remains of its previous body. The Queen of Shadows, which is basically just a souped-up form of her as a postgame boss, does the same thing.
- Never Trust a Trailer: The intro cinematic tends to suggest that Empel and Lila are antagonists, and their darker color palettes don't help.
- Overrated and Underleveled:
- Lila is presented as an experienced, hardened warrior who has wandered the world adventuring with Empel for years and who is a Really 700 Years Old member of a warrior race to boot; when she joins your party (after you've been training for a few weeks or months at most, albeit with clear growth), she's no stronger than anyone else. But while she is the same level, she is the most overpowered from a mechanics standpoint due to her elemental buff system.
- Justified with Empel, who suffered a Career-Ending Injury long ago. He only joins you after you make him a prosthetic arm, and his personal quests make it clear he has a long way to go to recover the power he once had.
- Philosopher's Stone: This returns as one of the items you can create through synthesis. It doesn't play a role in the plot this time, though a subquest to learn an ability for Empel does require you to create one. It's a powerful item to use in synthesis and is also a great item for farming gems.
- Reality Ensues: Regarding the current state of society, behavior of a government during a crisis, and the lack of accurate recordings of events. Rather than people that lived through it knowing the situation, the Klint government covered up all of their failures so that there is almost no information on their fall to the point where the citizens, troops, and anyone not at the top of their leadership who died back then knew what was happening. Because the lower level leadership blindly spread orders not to do certain things without knowing why, the citizens ignorance morphed them into Kurken's irrational taboo system and made it hard for the protagonists to piece anything together even with outside help and direct testimony from someone who was alive at the time. The military personnel stationed at the tower to draw away the ravenous hordes had no idea what they were defending against, only that they were monsters and that how badly the battle was going meant they would die horribly. Tao doesn't get useful information out of their logs until he reads a note directly from the alchemist leading the Underworld project. Even then, the purpose behind the actions confessed to in that log had to be deduced by Ryza via circumstantial evidence.
- Running Gag: Barrel! Like so many other Atelier protagonists, Ryza is really excited whenever you stop and investigate a barrel.
- Stuff Blowing Up: What got Ryza into alchemy in the first place, due to being fascinated by one of Empel's powerful explosives. Later on, she passes one of Klaudia's father's assigned labors by just building a huge bomb and blowing up the offending object, to the distress of Lent and Tao who find the idea crazy. It does work out for her though.
- Small Town Boredom: This is Ryza's motive for going on an adventure: the village of Rasenboden bores her, so she decides to go on an adventure with her friends in search of excitement.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Tao and Lent have been good friends with Ryza since they were children, but neither one is reluctant to criticize Ryza.
- Expands to include Bos later in the storyline - while they all get along again, all four characters love to poke at each other anyway, though this level of more playful teasing is perceived by Klaudia as a sign they've finally become friends again. Bos and Tao leave the island together in the ending and still have this joking relationship.
- With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility: The center of the plot. Empel drills it into Ryza after the first big twist that alchemists caused horrifying events in the past with the MANY actions listed on this page of the Klint Kingdom. It's also a bit of a sore spot for him personally and the core of his trust issues, since his own foolishness led to him being tricked into helping synthesizing a huge bomb for an alchemists coup in his own country. When he screwed up the synthesis, not only did he lose his arm's function, he took all the blame and got exiled for life. It makes Ryza nervous a few times knowing that people doing what she does caused a civilization ending event. In the end, Empel is very proud of Ryza for only using her abilities responsibly.
- Wham Episode: The chapter "The Panicking Boy" contains several big revelations in a row: the presence of large ruins containing a gate to the Underworld near the village, Bos' Freudian Excuse and backstory, Lila being Really 700 Years Old, and the Klint device that stole the Underworld's water being in Moritz's possession.
- The top of the tower, where the Klint alchemists log admits and apologizes that they unleashed the swarm on their Oren "friends" on purpose. Naturally, everyone, especially Lila, are disgusted. Ryza later figures out why after killing the Ravenger Queen, realizing they did it to harvest rare Philuscha cores to make power generators.
- Xenomorph Xerox: The Scorpion-class enemies are rather similar to a Xenomorph, being bipedal monsters with a bladed tail and covered in jewel-like armor, on top of being ruled by a Hive Queen like all other Philuscha.